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The following is not actually part of The Subway Diaries (or any other Dreamscape) but it seemed to embrace the ethos (not to mention the setting) of the category so well, that we include it, here, for your enjoyment.

05.14.91

I sit, as it were (crouched, really, my back braced to a wall), in the twilight dawn of subway station X, the twilight dawn that stretches, dim, through all these lonely and darkened corridors during any period of the night, every night.

Can you feel the breeze? It comes noticeably from my left, from the north, ruffles my hair... would ruffle these pages were I to relax my hold. That’s the air pushed ahead through the tunnel by the next approaching train. And look! Up the track, still in the tunnel: two yellowish eyes come a’rattling and a’screeching its approach: a #9 train, heading south? Well, thankie much; don’t mind if I do.

Now I sit in another expanse, internal and metallic and mobile this time, descending the colon of the beast, a long smooth chromium turd sliding down down, to dump me downtown, as it were.

And Look! Stuttering through the girders and briefly glimpsed as they rattle past: every station a book-in-waiting, if only I would take the time and...

Ah. The ride smooths as we coast from 116 → 110 on steady rails and no propulsion, superconductive it feels, steady as the night. Now we slow, pause, ka-ching, doors open, souls descend and disembark, or vice versa, as the case may be... ding ding... "Stand clear of the closing door!" to lurch us on our way.

Look!

The yellow/orange plastic pre-formed curves designed to palm the average NY bum. (Or “transient,” as I believe correct terminology these days, or "unsavory," by others [Cam!...]). And my bum too! It could be Mickey Ds, in here, with the form-fitting molded orange and beige plastic of it. But listen!

A rush of air. A higher whine. The low-slung murmured gossip that animals make to pass the time, distract the mind, from the terminable darkness.

Oh, hark. Why have we stopped now? No tiled aquarium glow to be glimpsed, just blank blackness outside the scratched and plastic windows, maybe a hint of grimy tunnel wall pressed close up to the glass. But still... feel that? A hum. The deeper, burning, glowing surge of electricity held in check. Do any of us really know: the thrumming power that feeds the grid?

Oop, on the move again. And someone laughs as we lurch and leave the station (103rd). Out of 22 passengers in this car (yes, I counted) I am not the only caucasian. Another sits opposite and ½ way down, his chin propped on knee-propped fist… no socks, white t-shirt, shorts (it’s damned hot, remember). And me, now, as we arrive at 86th (“Stand clear of the closing doors…” ding...ding. Swoooooosh. Hummmm.) Yes me. I'm glad you asked: red socks, red t-shirt, khaki shorts… I write. For no apparent reason, I write. I am a “writer”, pen to paper, thus. But when I pause (which I don’t often) what then? For example, as we hit 79th and I glance up to take assessment… When I pause to lick the quill and look around. Still a writer? Definition unclear.

"Burden of Proof" (by Scott Turow) is the novel the man held; the man who (bearded, bespectacled, marching resolutely from one car to the next, bracing himself occasionally from swaying) passed, just now, in front of my knees and, for a moment, through the world of my perception and description…

Hark! 66th street… south, south and south some more we go (59th next). Ding ding.

… but am I still a writer then?

I am surrounded now it should be glumly noted. And it ain’t no fun. To my right, to my left, and above, hanging one arm on the crossbar. If one of these scurrilous fellows so much as side-eyes they can read every word and meta-word (and meta-meta-word) I scribe. Well, fuck ‘em all! To hell with them! I scribble on, undeterred, and determined, it might appear, to set a new, and, as yet unconceived record, to be the first, foremost and probably ONLY person to scribble virtually unceasingly from 125th Street (ah, respite from the prying eyes: 42nd Grand Central brings an equally grand exodus, a general emptying of the train, the good from the chaff, as it were [chaff, including me, left on board, as only those heading TRULY downtown stay] and I can breathe again with some space and lucidity and privacy around.) Yes UNCEASINGLY, is what I was saying, I shall pull meaning from the void and press it in ever tightening spirals and hieroglyphs to this page, to be exhumed someday and marveled at by future sociologists and historians alike. They will ogle and gasp, unable to believe, equally unable to deny: the only person, I propose, ever to write perpetually from 125th Street to Christopher Street, unstopping! AND, as 14th St is now behind us, it appears I might just make it since Christopher is next and no more power outages in sight. Still, man plans and god laughs and when's the last time a power outage was predicted never mind spotted, so I won't count it yet, not yet, but now! The train slows! The aquarium glow. Most importantly, I can’t miss my stop (that would be a disastrous and dastardly turn of events). CHRISTOPHER STREET. Ding ding. Jayson, out!

The Subway Diaries i (44/85)

April 10, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

The saga continues. We have dealt w/so many characters all peripherally involved to some capacity w/our move and movement. Yesterday it was Jeffery Ween and his supercilious (tho deserved) condescension. Today, 1st and foremost, A) Randolph Cozynskyj (yes, the “j” is no typo. His surname ends in a “j”), lawyer/landlord of our previous, 7th St. pad, who nearly had a full erection as he sensed we might give him the keys early, and promised the moon in return. Heading down, we were nervous as to what might be required of us to get back our security deposit in terms of clearing out the apartment and breaking down the loft and discarding the last of our useless shelves + my old desk, and where + when + how, etcs. Soon, however, it became clear that none of this was an issue. Not only did good Mr. Cozynskyj inform us that nothing so finicky and punctilious was necessary (just give me the keys!) but promised to negotiate a sale of the loft to subsequent tenant! I think A) he saw the clear advantage/necessity (and craftsmanship extraordinaire!) of the loft but also B) just wanted us the hell out. So we left him a price to try to get: $1000 for everything; which he will quite possibly pocket (presuming he gets it) and took the last of our shabby possessions and scrammed, happy to be free at last and forever of the confines of that – as Jules charitably scribes it – “Rat Hole.” But not yet, really. 1st we waited for Liz to get off work w/her car to drive us up and when we did enter the new place with these few final crates of stuff, there we were, nervous as all get-out about bringing yet more stuff in and we slide it smooth as silk into the vator, up to 8t floor, slid it all into the hallway and I’m back down to get the last crate and when I step out, lobby level, there’s Gwendolyn (our neighbor on 8) literally seething about something.

“Why didn’t you get the service elevator?” she snapped.

“Huh?” I was all off guard and completely off balance and on top of this, unsure as to whether she was speaking about now, or back to Friday when we knew that people had been very aggravated about our activity. “Huh,” I said. “But we only had a few, final things and–”

“So you thought you would hold up this one?”

“We didn’t hold this one.” I still didn’t know what she was A) talking about and B) so mad about.

“You didn’t hold this one up on 8?” She glared at me, waiting for any excuse or denial.

“No. Wait. You mean just now?” I couldn’t see it. We had held the door for the minimum time it took to slide 4 crates into the hall… maybe 30 seconds. 

“Yes, just now!”

“We didn’t hold it.”  Then, as I interpreted, finally, that her wrath had basis in the immediate here-and-now: “Maybe for a minute…” But the door was already closing, Gwendolyn nodding smugly, secure now in her knowledge that I was a bald-faced liar on top of being an all-star pain in the community ass.

Liz (having been there in the lobby the whole time and witnessed the scene, unbeknownst to Gwendolyn that she had any connection to me) shared a whispered consultation, filling me in on Gwendolyn’s behavior in the lobby before I came down: pacing to the elevator, glaring at it, pushing the button repeatedly, nodding fulfillment of expectations as she saw the glowing 8, pounding on the door of A) the elevator and B) Martin’s apartment, ringing Martin’s bell, pacing some more, viciously pissed off! As Liz and I were still stunned, we heard the elevator reach its apex, 8 floors above us – doors open, close – immediately Martin’s phone began to ring. We shuddered. What a nightmare! All we wanted was to not draw attention and certainly not to cause commotion and now we had this! A seething neighbor to contend with…

Our latest theory is that Gwendolyn wants us out to create a full floor-through dream apartment for herself: 10 rooms, two kitchens, etc.

But that was not the A) only nor B) worst confrontation of the day. Post haircut (Supercuts) I walk to the desk and try to pay. The receptionist is in full personal phone call babble w/whomever, and begins to punch a code into a very complex and in-depth computer program. I see, sure enough, that she’s only charging me for a cut and not the full cut and shampoo that I had, in fact, enjoyed. “You know,” I said. “I had a shampoo too…”

This set off an intense + combative series of events that had us both convinced of the other’s A) lunacy and B) deservedness to die.

I did not do that conflict justice at all. Nor will I. Jules must get off phone soon. I must play chess. Waste more time. I should be creating! But it’s so damn hard.

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